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Daily News Summary
29 September 2023

Prime minister criticises Labour's independent school fee tax plans
University dropout rates reach highest recorded level, data shows
A closer look at education policy ahead of next week's Conservative Party Conference
MMR vaccine take-up among five year olds lowest for 12 years, NHS data reveals
ISC blog: ‘My favourite things about Pakistan!’

Prime minister criticises Labour's independent school fee tax plans


Prime minister Rishi Sunak has accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of stoking a "class war" over the Labour Party's plans to add VAT to independent school fees. Mr Sunak has argued that Labour's policy fails to appreciate the aspirations of families who want to provide a better life for their children. David Walker, director of the Boarding Schools' Association (BSA), is quoted, warning that adding VAT to fees “could threaten the viability of hundreds of schools”, adding that it could “have a negative knock-on effect to the number of bursaries each school can offer to low-income families”. By Louisa Clarence-Smith, Camilla Tominey and Catherine Lough, The Telegraph.

The Guardian also covers the prime minister's comments in Politics Live with Andrew Sparrow (the item appears at 17:15).

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), appeared across the media yesterday explaining that VAT is a tax on parents that would lead to thousands of children having their education disrupted. Ms Robinson was interviewed by LBC, Radio 4's Today programme, Sky News, LBC News, Radio 5 and Talk TV. Sky News this morning interviewed Christine Cunnliffe, head at LVS Ascot, as part of a feature on Labour's tax plans.

Schools Week reports shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said independent schools need to "reflect on where they could be making savings", so they can cover Labour's proposed VAT on their fees for parents. Julie Robinson is quoted saying VAT is "a tax on parents: schools would be legally required to put VAT on their fees under Labour's policy". By Freddie Whittaker.

Analysis by The Telegraph has found parents of children at almost a quarter of day schools would face fees of over £30,000 under Labour’s proposed tax plans. The party's plan to impose VAT on independent school fees would see day fees at 129 of 565 secondary schools exceed £30,000 if the tax was passed on in full to parents, according to the analysis, which is based on costs for sixth form pupils in a sample of schools that have published price structures. Will Goldsmith, head of St George's School, ‌echoes the comments of colleagues in the independent sector who are striving to keep fees as affordable as possible. Speaking to the paper, Mr Goldsmith said: ‌“Of course we will do everything we can to keep fee increases to an absolute minimum but Labour has to understand that schools operate on fine profit margins." Presently, only 43 secondary schools charge above that threshold. By Louisa Clarence-Smith and Ben Butcher. 

David James, deputy head at Lady Eleanor Holles School, is quoted in The Times in a report on school leaders' concerns over Labour's tax plans. Mr James warns: “Fundamentally, they [Labour] don’t understand the complexities of the issues. It sends a message that any charity seen to be ideologically opposed to the government of the day could be subject to extra tax. How many people would support that in practice?" Julie Robinson is also quoted, explaining that VAT on fees is "nothing to do with charitable status", rather it is a tax on parents. By Nicola Woolcock.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, has a letter published in The Times in which he warns that Labour is seeking to "tax independent schools' success" and that the party's policy risks undermining the UK independent sector as a brand, as well as negatively impacting the economy. Numerous other contributors have also written to the paper on the issue, raising their concerns and reactions to Labour's tax proposals.

A number of individuals have written to The Telegraph, sharing their views on the Labour Party's plans. One writes: "Does Sir Keir Starmer really believe that private schools could afford to pay VAT under a Labour government without passing the cost on to parents? Moreover, if fees do rise, how does he think the state system will cope with all the students whose parents can no longer afford private education?". Another contributor highlights the valuable cross-sector partnership work taking place between independent and state schools, warning that "no doubt this would stop if charitable status were removed, and Labour could be accused of denying opportunities to poorer pupils". The letters, in both publications, appear at the top of the page.

iNews reports that some independent schools are advising parents to use fee prepayment schemes in anticipation of a potential Labour government. By Poppy Wood.

A number of other schools in membership of the ISC's constituent associations are also mentioned across the media today and reference is made to ISC data.


University dropout rates reach highest recorded level, data shows


The number of students not completing a university course in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has reached a new high, figures from the Student Loans Company (SLC) suggest. There has been a 28 per cent rise over five years in students who signed up for a loan before dropping out of a course. By Julia Bryson, BBC News. 


A closer look at education policy ahead of next week's Conservative Party Conference


Tes outlines what teachers can expect from next week's Conservative Party annual conference. By Cerys Turner and John Roberts.


MMR vaccine take-up among five year olds lowest for 12 years, NHS data reveals


Official NHS figures have shown that MMR vaccination take-up among children aged five is now the lowest it has been for 12 years. The annual figures for 2022/23 show just one in 10 children has had their first MMR vaccine by the age of two. By Laura Donnelly and Ben Butcher, The Telegraph. 

The Telegraph

ISC blog: ‘My favourite things about Pakistan!’


In a blog marking the end of the ISC's Cultural Diversity Month, Ashlyn Khan, last year’s deputy head girl at Portsmouth High School GDST, talks about how her Pakistani heritage has shaped the person she is today and what she most loves about the culture of Pakistan.



The Independent Schools Council (ISC) monitors the national and educational press in order to keep independent schools up-to-date with relevant education news. The DNS is a service primarily for schools in membership of ISC associations, although other interested parties can choose to sign-up. We endeavour to include relevant news and commentary and, wherever possible, notable public letters. Where capacity allows, we may include links to ISC blogs, press statements and information about school or association events. News stories are selected based on their relevance to the independent sector as a whole. Editorial control of the DNS remains solely with the ISC.

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